A friend and a movie

Another Tulsa Today Exclusive

It’s summer. A great time for movies, swimming, concerts, and good ole’ American baseball. Although there’s a great many All-Star games one could attend, I’m catching a ball for the movie buffs, and with good reason, too.

Last year, I received an email from a friend of mine, a Chicago editor, who was cast in the new release Public Enemies, starring Johnny Depp, Channing Tatum, Christian Bale, Billy Crudup, Marion Cotillard. I’ve always been a Depp fan. The fact that a friend of mine was working in a Michael Mann film with Depp made it all even better.

Public Enemies offers a bit of a romanticized illustration of John Dillinger, a famous bank robber from the 1930s. Depp is cast as Dillinger and Christian Bale stars as Melvin Purvis – the FBI agent that brought Dillinger down. While overall reviews have been a mixed bag so far, there’s some outright outstanding notations on Depp’s work.
Something that is not so well known are the casting details that went on before filming.
As my friend, Donald Asher, was telling me and as it was officially reported back then, the Joan Philo Casting Co., which managed the casting for Public Enemies, announced that they were looking for “real newspapermen and real news reporters” to serve as extras in the film’s press scenes. Although a long line up of newspaper reporters auditioned for the film, my friend and fellow newspaperman Asher was one of the lucky folks selected to be in it.

In the wave of mixed reviews, I’m wondering how many of the reporters, who auditioned for the role and did not get it, came back and gave reviews? Or, how many reporters knew the reporters that did? In stating these questions, I’m reminded of the Robert Deniro film, "Guilty By Suspicion."

It’s just something to consider before letting a review impact a decision on whether or not you check this film out at the theaters. If you do, it’s interesting to note that all of the newspaper people in the film, are actual reporters.  For that, I applaud the producer, despite any controversary it may have caused.

My friend Asher and I were talking via telephone and email this past week. “The movie opens today,” he wrote to me. “I’m going with a group of friends tonight, although we’ve already seen the movie at the Chicago premiere. Depp, Bale and all were there. The after party was great!”

At some point in the communication that we sent back and forth, I asked what it was like to be working alongside Depp. Asher sent me a piece that he wrote about it.

Being cast as Crown Point Reporter Number 1 in Public Enemies ranks near the top in exciting opportunities I’ve had in my 40-plus years as a newspaper journalist.

My first scene was shot in the old Lake County Jail. Dillinger (Johnny Depp) was brought into a press conference surrounded by police officers, FBI agents, the Lake County Sheriff (Lili Taylor), and the infamous Robert Estill (Alan Wilder), Lake County prosecutor.

This was the scene where Dillinger puts his arm on Estill’s shoulder, and Estill returns the favor. The actual scene was captured on film in 1934 and has become one of the most well-known photos of Dillinger.

It took two days to shoot that scene. Two digital film cameras moved about the room crowded with “reporters and photographers” asking Dillinger questions. As director Michael Mann moved people into place, my heart raced as I got ready to deliver the first question from the reporters: “Johnny, are you glad to see Indiana again?” (You’ll have to see the movie to hear his response.)

I was also lucky enough to have the last question, too. It was that line that got me in both trailers for the movie, released in March and April and then in May, in the commercial for the film.

In the first trailer, it’s just my voice. The second actually has me asking the final question of the press conference. In the commercial, I have the first word!

My second scene took place three months later in Chicago, where I interviewed one of the hostages Dillinger had taken in his Lake County jail break.”

I tell Asher that overall reviews released on Public Enemies have been fairly good, who offers a quick congrats on my work here at Tulsa Today and says that he has now moved to a bigger office at his Chicago newspaper.

We talk about a few other things.  In closing, I tell him that I’ve got watching his movie on my list of things to do.  And, that’s true. It’s a great day for catching a quick flick and Public Enemies is one that I plan to see.  So far, the movie has cleared more than 40 million in sales and popularity seems to be building for this 1930s gangster film masterpiece. Hats off to what I know is a great film, that offers an interesting twist for the media.

A little postscript. I did get a chance to see this movie today and I’ve got just a few words…It rocks! Depp and Cotillard are fantastic. The newspaper folks did a great job, too. Look for a review highlighting the best parts later this week as well as some exclusive photos from the premiere!!!